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Why Every Windows User Needs a Linux Live CD

by Grim322
August 30, 2005

Has your Windows computer ever failed to boot or refused to go online? You know that if you could just get online you could search for an answer to your problem, post a question on Help2Go, or email your wife's computer nerd cousin; but there you sit unable to do anything. These problems seem to happen at the most inopportune times. You're going to a business meeting and just want to print out that financial report, you're going to school and you need to print that term paper, you need to do some last minute research online, or you need to get that important email. You could probably fix the Windows problem if you had an hour or two, but right now you just need to get what you want off of the computer. What do you do?

Linux to the rescue. Linux is that OTHER operating system that you don’t understand. Linux has gotten the reputation over the years as being for computer geeks only. Linux comes in several versions (distros), each slightly different. Many of those distros have started trying to make Linux more user friendly and visually more like windows (the die hard Linux users don’t like that part). Many of the distros offer a “live” CD that boots the operating system from the CD and makes no changes to your hard drive. The live CD will take several minutes to load, includes a web browser, word processor, email and much more. But here is the beautiful part; it will read your windows files so that you can access your documents, photos and mp3 files that are on the hard drive. If you have a printer hooked up to your computer, you can print your files. If you have a CD burner you can burn your files to a CD to retrieve them from your Windows system.

This won’t retrieve files if the problem is a bad power supply, damaged motherboard or non-working hard drive (it MAY retrieve from a damaged hard drive). But if the problem is viruses, damaged registry, bad boot sector or a host of other possible Windows problems, this will work. So every Windows user needs a Linux Live CD for emergencies. A LIVE CD won’t run as fast as what you are used to, after all, it is running from the CD, not the hard drive. It also won’t have all of the features you normally have, but this is an emergency.

If you have no desire to learn anything about Linux, I would suggest downloading the Linspire 5.0 Live CD (all links below). It looks almost just like Windows, has the familiar My Computer icon and will let you move about the files in your computer very easily, you can easily forget it isn’t windows. Other good live distros are MEPIS 3.3 and Knoppix. These don’t look exactly like Windows, but give you the same abilities as Linspire. Instead of My Computer, each drive will have its own icon on the desktop. The Windows partition will most likely be hda1. Another good live distro is SUSE 9.3, but it is a 1.5GB download and must be burned to a DVD. All feature the K3B CD burner software that will let you back up any data. They should recognize any installed printers and install any necessary drivers. They all ran fine with my N-Vidia and Radeon graphics cards, but all did not run well on my computer with an XGI Volari card, Linux doesn’t have a driver for it.
If you are not familiar with burning ISO images to CD, you don’t just burn them to CD like mp3 files. ISO images allow the transfer of large amounts of data containing several files to be handled as a single file. It must be burned to CD as an ISO or disk image so that the files can be separated again. Check your CD burning software for additional info.

OK, so here are the links to the LIVE Cds.

Linspire 5.0 (available here) as bit torrent download)

MEPIS 3.3 (download Simply Mepis 3.3- when you run it sign in password is same as sign in name- demo=demo, root=root
(available here)

Knoppix 3.9 (make sure you get the English version- EN 3.9 is the latest)
(available here)

(available here)

If you should ever decide you want to install Linux on your computer, most are free (Linspire isn’t) and come with a full package of software. Of the ones I have tried (and there are many that I haven’t), I think MEPIS and SUSE were the easiest for a hard-core Windows user to get comfortable with. Knoppix is a live version only and is not intended for installation. So download an ISO or two and give it a try, you’ll be glad you have it when you need it.

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